Basanti, yeh restaurant mein mat khana

October 6, 2015

Kingfisher Premium, the cheapest beer on the menu, is unavailable; clueless waiters don’t know the difference between chicken tikka and tandoori; and the dahi ke kabab appears and tastes like parched paneer patties. Welcome to Garam Dharam, Delhi’s newest — and a Dharmendra-themed — eatery in Connaught Place.

Patrons waiting to troop in to Garam Dharam

Patrons waiting to troop in to Garam Dharam in CP (pic: Samonway)

It’s a Saturday evening but we surprisingly get a table in an instant. Murals, cutouts and posters of the Jat playboy stare at us from the walls; even the menu card has a story on Dharam paaji: how he made the cut in Bollywood in 1960 after topping Filmfare’s ‘spot the hero’ contest overseen by Messrs Guru Dutt and Bimal Roy.

Like the walls and the rustic rough-hewn décor, complete with a Sholay ki motorbike, the menu card, evidently, has been craftily cooked up: phool aur pathhar ke kebab, Amritsari Pindi Sholay, mere hundum mere gosht (shalgam mutton) mast kalandar handi ke andar (kacche gosht ki biryani) and Dharam veer kesar kheer. Wish, the food received the same innovative treatment.

The boisterous diners (pic: DGD)

The boisterous diners (pic: DGD)

We call a waiter — his advises us ‘khao piyo mast raho’ — and quiz him on the difference between chicken tikka chaat (Rs 275) and tandoori tikka chaat (Rs 295) and which one would go well with Kingfisher Premium (Rs 80/pint). “Sir, we only have Kingfisher Ultra (Rs 160)”. Huh! The fledgling restaurant has already adopted the time-tested tactic, best perfected by Beer Café, to make your patrons pay more for their drink. And then comes the shocker: “Sir, chicken tikka chaat is tikka and chicken tandoori chaat is tandoori”.

Moved beyond words, we order one of the two — ki farak painda? — and find it an acceptable sliced and diced dry chicken dish topped with chopped tomato and coriander. By the time, the restaurant looks full with 15-20 diners waiting outside. Quite a sight in Delhi, considering many new ventures here draw the same level of attention as Axar Patel in Argentina.

Mutton seekh kebab chaat (Rs 275) — more of nearly the same — tastes like, well, chopped seekhs bought from any roadside thela and hastily garnished with onions, tomatoes, lemon… not a dish you will buy for 275 bucks.

Our disappointment, though, is drowned by laughter ringing from scores of youngsters on a high from Veeru ki ghutti (Rs 150), a mocktail made of sandalwood, cardamom and kaffir lime and served in a bottle — the restaurant’s most popular drink. I have a sip and quickly gulp some beer to retain my sanity. A sandalwood drink? Seriously? Even Veerappan would’nt have, i bet, touched it.

Chicken tikka with Veeru ki ghutti (pic: DGD)

Chicken tikka with Veeru ki ghutti (pic: DGD)

Deciding that we won’t move on to the mains — dinner is ready at home — we order galauti kebab (Rs 395), the litmus test of an Indian chef’s finesse. “Sir, nahin hai,” says our waiter. Then, give us some tawa keema kaleji (Rs 295). “Sorry, sir.” Stopping short of asking “To kya hai”, I ask for, in what I think is a stern tone laced with bitter irony, egg pakoras (Rs 245). Off goes our waiter and comes back in a jiffy. “Sir, pakore to nahi hai, omelette bana du?”

It’s when we, on the edge of our patience, order dahi ke kebab (Rs 295) and murg malai tikka (Rs 295), dishes no one goes wrong with. The chicken’s not bad, but what comes as dahi ke kebab, as I have described earlier, is made of paneer. Dry and solid, no amount of spooning the patty makes it crumble, forget any curd oozing out.

The bar counter with a 'theka look' (pic: Samonway)

The bar counter with a ‘theka’ feel (pic: Samonway)

By this time, we are talking work, colleagues, our six-day week; in short, anything but food. The evening has clearly bombed beyond redemption, and as we exit Garam Dharam at 10 at night, we wonder whether dozens of patrons still waiting outside are repeat visitors.

“I would love to give the restaurant my benefit of doubt,” i think aloud, much to my own astonishment. May be it will soon land a new chef who will deliver smash hits like Phool aur Paththar, Anupama, Sholay and Satyakam. After all, wasn’t Mr Dharam Singh Deol’s debut film Dil Bhi Tera Hum Bhi Tere a spectacular flop?

(Garam Dharam, M-16, outer circle, Connaught Place, Delhi)


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